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Aloe vera benefits run deep and wide

Everyone knows that Aloe vera is good for sunburn and helps repair skin damage when applied topically. But, Aloe vera even helps the skin from the inside out. A recent study showed that drinking Aloe for 90 days reduced the appearance of facial wrinkles and improved elasticity of the skin for women over age 45 whose skin had been subjected to photo-aging. Because the cells that line the digestive tract are very similar to skin cells, it isn’t surprising that so many also drink Aloe vera to heal stomach irritation, ulcerations and other digestive ills.

Some cultures have handed down tales of Aloe’s many benefits from one generation to the next and routinely drink it for general wellness. In fact, the plant has been revered for some 4,000 years. Now, clinical research has shown that what they observed has a firm scientific basis. At the bottom of this page there is a bibliography showing the wide range of research studies being conducted on Aloe. Nature is just remarkable.

Although aloe contains roughly 200 nutritional constituents, the real power is in its polysaccharides which are long chain carbohydrates. These chains come in various sizes and each weight range provides different benefits. Some weights improve immune function or gently moderate blood sugar. Others stimulate healing or boost immune function or increase detoxification. Still others help you extract more nutritional value from your foods and supplements by increasing nutrient absorption. For example, one particularly potent brand (Lily of the Desert) was shown to support absorption of 20 times as much vitamin C as was possible with water. (That is one reason I recommend taking your supplements with Aloe vera.)

But, like anything else, there is a wide range of quality in the products on the market. The challenge is to get Aloe from the field to the consumer without breaking those precious polysaccharide chains down into simple sugar molecules. The vast majority of manufacturers are not able to manage that tricky business and protect the higher molecular weights. I chose Lily of the Desert as a sponsor because university tests show that they have far and away the highest quantity of polysaccharides—close to twice as much as the next best brand they tested. Of even more significance, they were also the only products that contain the very high molecular weight polysaccharides. (Some over 4 million Daltons if you care to know that level of detail.) Lily grows their leaves organically on their own farms and manages all the following steps in-house to assure that high level of quality continues. Lily is also the only brand that conducts scientific research on their products to verify the claims.

For example, folklore indicates that Aloe has a moderating effect on blood sugar. After Lily discovered the particular weight range that produces that effect, not only did they isolate and concentrate it into a capsule, they conducted a gold standard clinical study. The study showed that the product, Gluc-aloe, reduced the blood-sugar spiking effect of a meal by half when one capsule was taken before each meal. Without a change in diet or exercise, the participants (not the placebo group) lost 12% of their body fat, dramatically improved measures of blood sugar control, increased blood antioxidants and immune function while lowering blood toxins.

Powerful yes, but Aloe vera is also probably safer than unfiltered tap water. While not all commercial brands of Aloe are equally effective, they are all safe. Aloin is a harsh laxative type substance found in the peel of the Aloe leaf. All suppliers reduce aloin to very safe levels in products in stores. Lily’s level is almost undetectable at one part per million, but in the Lily tradition, they sponsored a scientific study to confirm the safety of their Aloe. I find it interesting that they carefully duplicated the exact protocol used in an FDA-sponsored study conducted a couple of years ago. The trial not only proved that their Aloe is safe, but also showed that Lily Aloe is a good way to improve the health of test animals!*

Obviously, Lily did make one small but crucial change in the procedure. That FDA-supported study was not intended to show the safety of products that are actually available for consumers to purchase. For reasons unknown, the researchers threw whole leaves into a blender and fed the result to animals…without removing the aloin. Not surprisingly, the animals did not do very well. Whatever the obscure basic research goal of that study, it is astonishing that some media groups still refer to it in inflammatory terms without bothering to report that no company sells such a thing. If the media goal was to protect the public, they would encourage consumers to drink Aloe vera for general health and just remind them to not make their own juice in a blender using whole leaves. It is rumored that the government is conducting a follow-up study using real commercial products. Undoubtedly they will show positive result. But, what do you want to bet that the news media will never mention those findings? Seems they just want ratings (or subscriptions memberships) and shocking “man bites dog” stories attract more attention. It is also possible, just possible, that the billions of dollars pharmaceutical companies spend in advertising reinforces a bias against natural methods. That may also be the reason that the bulk of the studies on Aloe are being done in countries with more appreciation for natural remedies.

*Now you can see why I recommend Lily of the Desert Aloe vera drinks as well as their many fine products specific for digestion, detoxification, blood sugar, skin care and hair care.

ALOE VERA BIBLIOGRAPHY

As of September 2013, the PubMed database lists over 2,000 references on Aloe vera. The studies below are obviously only a tiny sampling but at least hint at the broad range of current scientific inquiry around the world into the natural wonder that is Aloe vera. One day I hope to get back to this project and add the new additions.

TOPICAL

  • Burn healing. Shahzad MN, Ahmed N. Effectiveness of Aloe Vera gel compared with 1% silver sulphadiazine cream as burn wound dressing in second degree burns. J Pak Med Assoc. 2013 Feb;63(2):225-30.
  • Psoriasis. Dhanabal SP, Priyanka Dwarampudi L, Muruganantham N, Vadivelan R. Evaluation of the antipsoriatic activity of Aloe vera leaf extract using a mouse tail model of psoriasis. Phytother Res. 2012 Apr;26(4):617-9. doi: 10.1002/ptr.3589.
  • Radiation protection. Haddad P, Amouzgar-Hashemi F, Samsami S, Chinichian S, Oghabian MA. Aloe vera for prevention of radiation-induced dermatitis: a self-controlled clinical trial. Curr Oncol. 2013 Aug;20(4):e345-8. doi: 10.3747/co.20.1356.
  • Wound healing. Liu LY, Chen XD, Wu BY, Jiang Q. [Influence of Aloe polysaccharide on proliferation and hyaluronic acid and hydroxyproline secretion of human fibroblasts in vitro]. Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Xue Bao. 2010 Mar;8(3):256-62.

INGESTED

CARDIOVASCULAR & METABOLIC

  • Clolesterol reduction with probiotic. Kumar M, Rakesh S, Nagpal R, Hemalatha R, Ramakrishna A, Sudarshan V, Ramagoni R, Shujauddin M, Verma V, Kumar A, Tiwari A, Singh B, Kumar R. Probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Aloe vera gel improve lipid profiles in hypercholesterolemic rats. Nutrition. 2013 Mar;29(3):574-9. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2012.09.006.
  • Glycemic control / weight loss. Choi HC, Kim SJ, Son KY, Oh BJ, Cho BL. Metabolic effects of aloe vera gel complex in obese prediabetes and early non-treated diabetic patients: Randomized controlled trial. Nutrition. 2013 Sep;29(9):1110-4. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2013.02.015.

GASTROINTESTINAL

  • H. Pylori Binding. Xu C, Ruan XM, Li HS, Guo BX, Ren XD, Shuang JL, Zhang Z. Anti-adhesive effect of an acidic polysaccharide from Aloe vera L. var. chinensis (Haw.) Berger on the binding of Helicobacter pylori to the MKN-45 cell line. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2010 Dec;62(12):1753-9. doi: 10.1111/j.2042-7158.2010.01181.x.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease. Ng SC, Lam YT, Tsoi KK, Chan FK, Sung JJ, Wu JC. Systematic review: the efficacy of herbal therapy in inflammatory bowel disease. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2013 Aug 25. doi: 10.1111/apt.12464. [Epub ahead of print]
  • Polyp formation. Chihara T, Shimpo K, Beppu H, Tomatsu A, Kaneko T, Tanaka M, Yamada M, Abe F, Sonoda S. Reduction of intestinal polyp formation in min mice fed a high-fat diet with aloe vera gel extract. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 2013;14(7):4435-40.
  • Probiotic support. Nagpal R, Kaur V, Kumar M, Marotta F. Effect of Aloe vera juice on growth and activities of Lactobacilli in-vitro. Acta Biomed. 2012 Dec;83(3):183-8.
  • Ulcerative colitis. Langmead L, Feakins RM, Goldthorpe S, Holt H, Tsironi E, De Silva A, Jewell DP, Rampton DS. Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of oral aloe vera gel for active ulcerative colitis. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2004 Apr 1;19(7):739-47.

IMMUNE

  • Antifungal – Das S, Mishra B, Gill K, Ashraf MS, Singh AK, Sinha M, Sharma S, Xess I, Dalal K, Singh TP, Dey S. Isolation and characterization of novel protein with anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties from Aloe vera leaf gel. Int J Biol Macromol. 2011 Jan 1;48(1):38-43. doi: 10.1016/j.ijbiomac.2010.09.010.
  • Apoptosis, brain cancer cells – Ismail S, Haris K, Abdul Ghani AR, Abdullah JM, Johan MF, Mohamed Yusoff AA. Enhanced induction of cell cycle arrest and apoptosis via the mitochondrial membrane potential disruption in human U87 malignant glioma cells by aloe emodin. J Asian Nat Prod Res. 2013 Jul 22. [Epub ahead of print]
  • Macrophage activation – Liu C, Leung MY, Koon JC, Zhu LF, Hui YZ, Yu B, Fung KP. Macrophage activation by polysaccharide biological response modifier isolated from Aloe vera L. var. chinensis (Haw.) Berg. Int Immunopharmacol. 2006 Nov;6(11):1634-41.
  • Metatasis – He TP, Yan WH, Mo LE, Liang NC. Inhibitory effect of aloe-emodin on metastasis potential in HO-8910PM cell line. J Asian Nat Prod Res. 2008 May-Jun;10(5-6):383-90. doi: 10.1080/10286020801966609.
  • Proliferation reduction, leukemia – Mahbub AA, Le Maitre CL, Haywood-Small SL, McDougall GJ, Cross NA, Mahy NJ. Differential effects of polyphenols on proliferation and apoptosis in human myeloid and lymphoid leukemia cell lines. Anticancer Agents Med Chem. 2013 Jun 17. [Epub ahead of print]
  • Skin cancer – Saini M, Goyal PK, Chaudhary G. Anti-tumor activity of Aloe vera against DMBA/croton oil-induced skin papillomagenesis in Swiss albino mice. J Environ Pathol Toxicol Oncol. 2010;29(2):127-35.

INFLAMMATION

  • Downregulation of cytokines. Budai MM, Varga A, Milesz S, Tőzsér J, Benkő S. Aloe vera downregulates LPS-induced inflammatory cytokine production and expression of NLRP3 inflammasome in human macrophages. Mol Immunol. 2013 Dec 31;56(4):471-9. doi: 10.1016/j.molimm.2013.05.005. Epub 2013 Aug 1.
  • Mechanism. Zhong J, Huang Y, Ding W, Wu X, Wan J, Luo H. Chemical constituents of Aloe barbadensis Miller and their inhibitory effects on phosphodiesterase-4D. Fitoterapia. 2013 Sep 9. pii: S0367-326X(13)00235-9. doi: 10.1016/j.fitote.2013.08.027. [Epub ahead of print]

MISCELLANEOUS

    • Antibacterial / antioxidant. Nejatzadeh-Barandozi F. Antibacterial activities and antioxidant capacity of Aloe vera. Org Med Chem Lett. 2013 Jul 19;3(1):5. doi: 10.1186/2191-2858-3-5.
    • Facial Wrinkling. Soyun Cho, Serah Lee, Min-Jung Lee, Dong Hun Lee, Chong-Hyun Won, Sang Min Kim, Jin Ho Chung. Dietary Aloe Vera Supplementation Improves Facial Wrinkles and Elasticity and It Increases the Type I Procollagen Gene Expression in Human Skin in vivo. Ann Dermatol. 2009 Feb;21(1):6-11.
    • Liver protection. Nahar T, Uddin B, Hossain S, Sikder AM, Ahmed S. Aloe vera gel protects liver from oxidative stress-induced damage in experimental rat model. J Complement Integr Med. 2013 May 7;10. pii: /j/jcim.2013.10.issue-1/jcim-2012-0020/jcim-2012-0020.xml. doi: 10.1515/jcim-2012-0020.
    • Preserving fresh apple slices. Song HY, Jo WS, Song NB, Min SC, Song KB. Quality change of apple slices coated with Aloe vera gel during storage. J Food Sci. 2013 Jun;78(6):C817-22. doi: 10.1111/1750-3841.12141.
    • Stroke recovery – Lu ZQ, Deng YJ, Lu JX. Effect of aloe polysaccharide on caspase-3 expression following cerebral ischemia and reperfusion injury in rats. Mol Med Rep. 2012 Aug;6(2):371-4. doi: 10.3892/mmr.2012.927.

Copyright Martie Whittekin, CCN 2013

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